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News > U.S.

Texas House Impeaches Attorney General Over Corruption

  • Plenary session at Texas House, U.S. May 27, 2023.

    Plenary session at Texas House, U.S. May 27, 2023. | Photo: Twitter/ @TexasTribune

Published 28 May 2023

Ken Paxton repeatedly abused his office and committed at least three felonies in an effort to help a friend and political donor.

On Saturday, the GOP-led Texas House of Representatives voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, a powerful Republican and firm ally of former President Donald Trump, over yearslong accusations of corruption, lawbreaking and power-abusing.


House Panel Recommends Impeachment of Texas Attorney General

Unlike in Congress, impeachment in Texas requires immediate removal from office until a trial is held in the Senate. The vote was 121-23, with two members voting "present." Republicans hold an 85-64 majority in the chamber.

"The evidence is substantial. It is alarming and unnerving," said Republican lawmaker Andrew Murr, also chair of the General Investigating Committee, during his closing statement.

Texas' "top cop is on the take," said Ann Johnson, a Democratic House representative, during the debate. Texas Democrats have for years cast Paxton as corrupt.

Paxton denied all wrongdoing on Friday, calling the GOP-led effort to impeach him a "deceitful," politically motivated campaign. He was reelected in the 2022 midterm elections despite being under indictment on felony securities fraud charges as well as an FBI probe into whistleblowers' bribery claims against him.

The committee on Wednesday listened to three hours of detailed testimony by investigators over criminal charges against the state's top lawyer for securities fraud and allegations by his former top deputies that Paxton used his office to benefit a friend and political donor.

According to the investigators, Paxton repeatedly abused his office and may have committed at least three felonies in an effort to help a friend and political donor, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, with various legal troubles.

These included spending US$72,000 on staff labor in tasks that benefited the developer, providing him with an internal FBI file related to an investigation into Paul, and hiring an outside lawyer for US$25,000 to conduct work that primarily benefited Paul.

The accusation is largely based on claims made by four former senior staff who filed a whistleblower lawsuit last year, arguing that Paxton improperly fired them after they reported related concerns to federal and state investigators, said the report.

Committee investigators also discussed criminal charges that have been pending against Paxton since 2015, when a Collin County grand jury indicted him on two counts of felony securities fraud related to private business deals in 2011.

According to those charges, Paxton solicited investors into Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the McKinney tech company was paying him to promote its stock. He was also accused of having accepted US$100,000 from an executive whose company was under investigation by Paxton's office for Medicaid fraud.

The attorney general also reportedly accepted an additional US$50,000 donated by an Arizona retiree and later hired the donor's son to a high-ranking job. The donor's son was soon fired after trying to make a point by displaying child pornography in a meeting.

"This is as detrimental and important a scandal as we've seen in Texas political history... Not just because of what happened, but because of how long it's been going on and how Paxton has been able to survive it," Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, told The New York Times.

The third-term state attorney general is seen as a popular politician among Texan conservative voters. He filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

On Saturday, Trump said that the impeachment proceedings against Paxton were unfair, vowing to fight against lawmakers who pursued impeachment.

Only the Texas House can bring impeachment proceedings against state officials, which would lead to a trial by the Senate. Removal requires two-thirds support in both state chambers.

It makes Paxton only the third sitting official in Texas' nearly 200-year history to have been impeached, following Governor James Ferguson in 1917 and District Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975.


Ken Paxton
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